Our older daughter, age 39, and her husband, age 40, are on a trip to Tennessee to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, so Dad has been checking the weather radar, texting information about the tornado warning along their route, reminding them that their new Mercedes is rear-wheel drive and to watch out for hydroplaning, and so on and so on….
Now there’s no question in my mind that they appreciate the information. It’s interesting, however, how I feel compelled to carry out this exercise in fatherhood — not to mention codependency. My daughter is an uncommonly sensible woman. My son-in-law has his Crackberry, and is totally capable of pulling up weather information if he can’t get adequate updates via satellite radio. They’re both native Floridians, know all about our changeable and often violent weather and, in short, flat out don’t need the Old Man interrupting their road trip.
But from the time she was ten until she was around twenty-one, I was more and more disengaged from fatherhood in general by my alcoholism. I was not only not the father I could have been, but I failed to advocate for her and her sister during their bouts with an emotionally (and occasionally physically) abusive stepfather. That may be just as well. Drunks who carry guns for a living probably shouldn’t advocate. But that’s neither here nor there regarding my missed obligations. I was never alienated from my girls, but I wasn’t exactly there every time I needed to be, either.
Now, I guess I’m sort of overdoing it a bit. She’s no longer a teenager, and I’m a grandfather. I know she loves me, and she knows I love her. It’s probably time to ratchet the fatherhood rheostat back a few degrees, but it’s hard to get over the idea that those largely-missed years need to be lived somehow. I know this is all in my head, and I know the kids don’t mind. I probably don’t need to change a thing, but I do need to get my head wrapped around the fact that I’ve already done amends to my kids, they love me, and I can just sort of relax now.